Breathing Exercises for Developers
As developers, the work we do can be quite intensive. Debugging, optimizing features, implementing new ones, basically round the clock problem solving. This is why it’s so easy for a developer to get lost in code for hours without taking breaks. If the environment becomes too stressful and self care isn’t prioritized, you can experience burnout.
That being said, sometimes deadlines are too close or new developments (no pun intended) arise and you simply can’t stop work for too long. In this post, I will share four breathing exercises that I have found helpful whenever I experience the throws of software engineering. They only take a few minutes and are easy enough to do at your desk, however I do recommend doing it in a place where you don’t work if you can. These exercises can help with energy, stress, balance, and improve focus.
Note: if at any point during the exercises you start to feel any discomfort, (lightheadedness, dizziness, etc.) please stop immediately.
The exercises below call for diaphragmatic, or belly, breathing. Emphasize this by expanding your belly while you inhale more so than your chest. Emphasize sucking it back in when you exhale. Before each exercise, make sure you exhale completely, drawing the diaphragm in.
Alright, let’s get into it!
Box Breathing (4–5 mins)
Box breathing is optimal for almost any use case. It can calm you down, balance your nervous system and help you to refocus. Box breathing has been utilized by the military to help manage stress and maintain focus under combat situations. You can do this by inhaling through your nose for four seconds, then hold your breath for four. Next you exhale for four and then. hold it for four. Do this for 4–5 minutes.
Alternate Nostril (up to 5 mins)
“ When we balance the breath through these two channels, we balance the self.” —Erica Matluck, N.D., N.P.
Use alternate nostril breathing when you need to rebalance and refocus. If you’re lethargic it can be invigorating. If you’re tense it can calm you down. First cover your right nostril and inhale through your left. After four seconds, cover your left nostril and exhale for four seconds through your right. Next you inhale through your right nostril for four, then cover the right and exhale through your left. Repeat these steps for 3–5 minutes.
Stimulating Breath (1 min)
The stimulating breath, also known as ‘Bellows Breath’ or Bhastrika, is meant to perk you up in a pinch. It is energizing and clarifying and is also believed by some to improve your metabolism and even help with weight loss. I also use this exercise when I first wake up and have found it pretty invigorating. You can perform the stimulating breath by inhaling quickly and exhaling quickly through the nose. This one cycle should be about 1 second long. Do this 10 times and then pause for 15–30 seconds, breathing normally. Then do another round of 10 and then relax. You can do more if your body permits but for beginners it’s recommended do only do 10–20 cycles.
*This is one of the noisier breathing exercises so it’s better done in a less populated area.
Calming Breath (1 min)
The calming breath has been touted as a greatly effective exercise to reduce anxiety, relax your body and help you sleep. Since it has such a strong relaxing effect I’d recommend only doing it for a little over one minute (four complete cycles) as to not induce such a relaxing effect that you want to nap. You can do this by inhaling through the nose for four seconds, then holding your breath for seven seconds, and finally exhaling through the mouth for eight seconds.
We put ourselves through a lot in an effort to produce effective and efficient software. Taking time out of our day for self care, especially during times like these, is extremely important but unfortunately not always convenient. These breathing exercises don’t take too long, can improve your wellbeing and provide you with a much needed pause in your day. If you’re just starting out on your wellness journey they can be a great starting point. They’re easy to do and can inspire more steps toward a better wellbeing.
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